10 Best Utes for Tradies
Utes are the quintessential tradie vehicles because of their practicality. They are made to take a great weight of loads and two heavy cargoes and equipment, including trailers. Their open cargo area design also safely transports livestock and other materials that do not fit inside the cabin of a family car or van. They are also versatile—They can be used as a family car on days off or a lifestyle vehicle that speaks of off-roading adventures.
However, not all utes are created equal. Some are sturdy and trustworthy workhorses while others are just basic work tools. When it comes to tackling tradie work, here are ten of the most popular and cost-efficient to consider:
1. Toyota Hilux
There’s a reason why the HiLux is dominating the ute market in Australia. It is has a reputation for being versatile, durable, and reliable. Its entry models are more affordable than that of Ford Ranger, its biggest competitor. It is also cheaper to service and run.
Tradies who prefer to use petrol also go for the HiLux because, unlike the Ranger and other ute brands, it has a petrol-powered variant.
Design-wise, a Hilux is well-constructed that some car reviewers compare its interior plastics to a fine oak. Its adjustable steering column, which cannot be found in other ute brands, also helps tradies tailor their driving position and stay comfortable while on the road.
The HiLux is also preferred by many suburban and rural tradies because, aside from its impressive off-roading performance, Toyota’s remote-area service is second-to-none.
2. Ford Ranger
Although Ford Ranger is tailing the Toyota HiLux in sales, the gap is closing every month.
The Ranger is ideal for diesel-loving tradies. Available with a choice of 2.2-litre four-pot Duratorq diesel or a 3.2-litre inline five Duratorq oil burner, the Ranger engine line-up is more efficient and powerful than HiLux.
It also has great handling ability on the road with all trims having lockable rear differentials that provide a solid and planted stance even when carrying or towing heavy loads. Tradies who need to cross rivers also have a better advantage in a Ranger than in a HiLux. While the latter will falter when water levels reach 700mm, a Ranger can keep going in 800mm deep rivers (850mm for the Raptor).
A Ford Ranger also has plenty of tech features. Even the base models have reverse cameras, parking sensors, Bluetooth, cruise control, and active safety assists. It has an intuitive infotainment system with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay connectivity.
3. Toyota LandCruiser 70-Series
Before the HiLux rose to popularity, there was the venerable Toyota LandCruiser ute with a dual-cab version that won Australia’s 2017 4x4 of the Year Award. Best known for its long tray, the ute has been the go-to machine of farmers, miners, and tradies for more than a decade.
Today, the vehicle is “still powerful, still indestructible”, as its tagline claims. Although its simple fabric and vinyl interior are not as aesthetically appealing as other utes, it can handle the toughest terrain with an 8 cylinder, 4.5-litre diesel engine and 151kW power. Its massive 130L tank can also keep travelling tradies on the road for a long time. Perhaps it’s for this reason that the ute comes at a not-so-affordable base price of $71,490 plus on-road costs.
A humble workhorse, even the 70-Series Dual-Cab doesn’t have many high-tech features like sat nav or smartphone mirroring nor luxuries like an electric adjustment for the seats. However, basic electronic driver aids like stability control have been added.
4. Volkswagen Amarok V6
The Amarok V6 ute delivers an incredible 3.5 tonne braked towing capacity and 580Nm of torque, which is powerful enough to tow or haul a boat. Its 3.0-litre Turbo-Diesel V6 engine boasts 165kW of power and 180kW of power on Overboost. Its high-spec trims Ultimate 580 and Highline 580 Black also make 190kW of power and a class-leading 200kW of power on Overboost, which can complete 0 to 100 dash in 7.3 seconds.
The ute is also equipped with plenty of modern driving system features, like 4MOTION and offroad mode technology and the front and rear ventilated disc brakes, as well as high-tech safety and infotainment features to help modern tradies enjoy a more convenient and comfortable ride.
Because of its impressive features, the Amarok V6 makes up almost 90 per cent of all private Amarok sales in Australia. A manual variant of the ute that is equipped with an old-school two-speed part-time 4x4 system for better off-road capability is also available.
5. Mitsubishi Triton
For tradies who want a ute with a decent towing and payload capacity, as well as high safety rating, but don't want to spend too much money on a vehicle, the Mitsubishi Triton is a good buy at its base price of $22,490.
The car has undergone minor changes for its 2020 model year, including a rear diff lock to its popular GLX+ and GLS trims, which used to be exclusively found on its flagship Mitsubishi Triton GLS Premium. An air-recirculating roof pod has also been added to the GLX+, a feature that was previously exclusive to the GLS and GLS Premium.
Meanwhile, the Triton retains its 2.4-litre turbo diesel engine that delivers 133kW/430Nm output and is available as a six-speed manual or six-speed automatic, except for the automatic-only GLS Premium. There is also no change to the ute's safety system as it maintains a five-star rating.
The latest improvements for the 2020 model, however, have caused the price of the GLX+ to increase by $1000, the GLS auto by $650, and the GLS Premium by $500.
6. Nissan Navara
Nissan Navara also had a mild refresh for its 2020 model, which focuses on refinement and is particularly beneficial for modern tradies who don’t mind enjoying their drive while on the way to a service request.
These changes include the addition of an acoustic windscreen with fresh sound-absorbing materials in the centre console, firewall, and transmission tunnel to minimise external noise. Nissan’s latest 8.0-inch touch-screen media interface with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay connectivity is installed on all trims except for the base RX. An around-view camera system that offers a bird’s-eye view for the driver when parking is also available on the ute’s mid and high-spec trims.
Available for a base price of $34,550 excluding on-road costs, the 2020 Nissan Navara boasts a 3.5-tonne braked towing capacity and comes with auto headlights, daytime running lights, brake-type limited-slip differential for the rear, and ISOFIX child seat anchor points in the back.
7. Holden Colorado
While the demise of Holden manufacturing in Australia brings a sense of sadness to many as the iconic brand has already become part of the country’s identity, it also means that people can secure huge discounts on the brand’s remaining models including the Colorado.
Available in a six-speed manual or six-speed automatic gearbox, the ute is powered by a 2.8-litre four-cylinder turbo diesel engine, which was re-engineered in 2016 to provide a smoother and quieter driving experience. With a 3.5-tonne towing capacity, it is capable of towing heavy loads like other competitive utes in the market. Safety-wise, the car is awarded a five star-rating by ANCAP in 2016.
As for those who are worried about parts availability and servicing and warranty for the car because of the Holden shutdown, General Motors has promised to extend warranty and service support for the car for 10 years. It will establish a national after-sales network to support existing customers for that period.
8. Mazda BT-50
The BT-50 is available in Single Cab with a large tray that gives tradies all the space they need to carry their tools and accessories, Freestyle Cab with a flexible interior and pillarless rear door to make room for extra passengers and gear, and a Dual Cab with a spacious cabin and several infotainment and safety features.
Offering plenty of driveline punch and robust feel from behind the wheel, the BT-50 is powered by a 3.2-litre five-cylinder turbo diesel engine that delivers 147kW of power at 3000rpm and 470Nm of torque from 1750 to 2500rpm. This is paired with a six-speed automatic and part-time four-wheel-drive system. Options for a six-speed manual and a two-wheel drive are also available.
While not a performance ute like the VW Amarok V6, the BT-50’s engine has more muscle than four-cylinder utes like the HiLux and Triton. And while its safety features do not compete with that of the HiLux, Tanger, and Triton, it has a decent list of swag for a ute.
9. Ssangyong Musso
This Korean one-tonne ute that resembles closely to a Holden Colorado is a cost-efficient choice for tradies with its base price of $30,000. It is available in several variants, all of which are powered by a 133kW 2.2-litre diesel engine with a 420Nm torque. Capable of doing most tough jobs, the ute can pull up to 3.5 tonnes when equipped with a braked trailer. The entry-level variants also offer more than 1000kg payload capability with the coil rear end versions dropping to 880kg.
Musso also provides excellent driver assistance and safety systems. Even its entry-level variant has an autonomous emergency braking. The top-spec Ultimate XLV dual cab has heaps of standard equipment plus a 310mm stretched load tray that can accommodate 1262 litres of cargo.
Considering that the most expensive Musso is priced like the entry-level Toyota HiLux, tradies can enjoy a lot of features for a low price. If that’s not enough to convince them, there’s Musso’s 777 deal, which offers a seven-year warranty, roadside assistance, and capped-price servicing for the ute.
10. Isuzu D-MAX
The Isuzu D-MAX has been around in Australia since 2012 and has gained a growing number of followers among tradies and other ute enthusiasts because of its continuous upgrades and improvements.
The 2020 model, which is one of the most anticipated cars to go on sale in Australia this year, is expected to be launched in July. It will be powered by a revised version of its 3.0-litre turbo diesel, which pumps out 140kW at 3600rpm and 450Nm from 1600rpm to 2600rpm (up from 130kW/430Nm in the 2019 model.
All new models will come standard with advanced safety technology and will have a bigger dimension with a cabin that is as large as the Toyota HiLux and Ford Ranger. The top-spec variants will feature several additional safety, comfort, and entertainment upgrades.